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Access to Justice and Diversity in ADR

Posted By Claudia Farr, Friday, June 30, 2017

Lately I’ve had the opportunity to think about and discuss with other ADR colleagues two distinct but interrelated issues – access to justice and diversity. And I’ve realized something new about both.

My curiosity was piqued after learning about the 2016-17 Global Pound Conference Series, and that multi-national commercial disputants have a need for improved access to justice. Why, I wondered, would these businesses need pro bono services from their lawyers or from their rosters of neutrals? Money would not seem to be the problem. But I soon realized that despite a multi-national’s financial wealth, low levels of diversity among available neutrals can impede access to justice in resolving international commercial disputes. These large businesses want dispute resolution services that are compatible with the diverse cultures of their customers, employees, and business partners, and that are therefore perceived as fair by these parties.

So too on a smaller geographic scale, say in Virginia. To fully experience access to justice, businesses, customers, families and individuals in the Commonwealth need ADR services they perceive as fair. And perceptions matter – a sense of fairness can hinge on having access to a pool of neutrals that reflects the state’s growing diversity, including racial, gender, cultural and language differences. Do we have that now? If we don’t, how can we get there? Let’s hear from you.

Tags:  access to justice  adr  alternative dispute resolution  diversity  neutrals 

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Donita M. King says...
Posted Friday, June 30, 2017
Excellent perception and observation, and all too true in my experiences and a Corporate Lawyer (in my legal early life) and now as a mediator who works with multi-cultural, multi- ethnic, and multi-religious parties.
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Jeanne F. Franklin says...
Posted Saturday, July 1, 2017
I would like to post one time for the last several blogposts.

First, thank you to Claudia and Jeri for taking up the pen to keep our fledgling blog going. The blog is looking relevant and lively. Thank you also to Donita for faithfully commenting.

I am thinking about all three posts - on mediating money, on adopting a less than saintly demeanor when mediating a contentious dispute, and on diversity among neutrals to ensure perceptions by consumers of the fairness of the processes. All these topics strike me as important. As to Jeri's question about becoming hostile to command respect, the truth is that we mediators are human. Sometimes what comes out of my mouth in reaction to, or as a mirror of, what I are observing may not be article-worthy though it can have the effect of catching the parties' attention. Sometimes, parties are not aware of the effect their behavior is having on others because they feel so strongly. And if a behavior or attitude change is a necessary part of their coming to a resolution, I agree then we do need to take some risks. I think your point, Jeri, was to do so intentionally, and with control - a method. I think Lee Berman in CA, talks about "mediating dangerously."

On Claudia's latest blog, expanding the pool of well trained neutrals to include a broad range of styles, cultures, identities and experiences - in short, everything we bring as mediators to our profession - I hope and trust encouraging such expansion will grow the use of ADR to meet the needs of consumers and of the justice system.

Thank you to all who contribute to this field.
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Donita M. King says...
Posted Sunday, July 2, 2017
Well said Jeanne!!
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Jeri K. Somers says...
Posted Monday, July 3, 2017
Jeanne, you always provide such great perspective. And you get it. Thanks!
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Deborah Blevins says...
Posted Monday, July 3, 2017
Diversity among ADR neutrals (or the lack of it) was a hot topic at the Mid-Atlantic Global Pound Conference in Baltimore in June. There was a call for in-house counsel, particularly, to make a conscious effort to chose neutrals with diversity in mind.
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